We’re still a little while away from the NCAA Tournament but make no mistake; March Madness is upon us. Soon, 68 teams will compete for the opportunity to win the Big Dance in a series of thrilling games. To win thee games, there are going to be several players with an added level of importance. This list isn’t focusing on the best players in the nation. We already know who they are. This is here to shine a light on the players who hold the keys to victory for their respective teams.
5. Jordan Bowden – Tennessee
Jordan Bowden may seem like an odd pick here. After all, he’s pretty much the third best player on his team behind Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. However, those guys play a similar style to one another. Bowden brings something different to the table. His offensive rating is second on the team, putting him ahead of Schofield. He’s consistent and can do a variety of things for his team, including hitting threes and guarding multiple positions. Bowden isn’t a household name, but he’s crucial to Tennessee’s title hopes.
4. Eric Paschall – Villanova
A lot of people are overlooking Villanova entering the tournament. To be fair, they haven’t exactly dominated the basketball world. However, this is a program that won the championship in 2016 and 2018. You just can’t count out the defending champs. Forward Eric Paschall was one of the leaders of that team last year. Then, he was more of a role player who did a little bit of everything. Hitting open threes, lockdown defense, ball movement. That kind of thing. Now, he’s creating his own offense and ranks second on the team in scoring.
3. Nassir Little – UNC
He’s one of the most talented and athletic players in all of college basketball. Nassir Little is projected to go high in the upcoming NBA Draft, but his season has been filled with ups and downs. Coby White has taken over the mantle as the top guy at UNC. However, Little could be the difference between a good run for UNC and another championship. If he turns it on and finds consistency, there’s an excellent chance that Roy Williams and UNC hang another banner.
2. Charles Matthews – Michigan
Last season, the Michigan Wolverines came up just short of winning the NCAA Title game against Villanova. Their breakout player was Charles Matthews. This year, Matthews is a senior with a ton of experience. He can guard multiple positions, is a threat from outside, helps carry the offense, and has a high basketball IQ. He’s spent some time injured so his status isn’t clear. With him in the lineup, Michigan is sure to be one of the biggest threats in the tournament.
1. Cam Reddish – Duke
There’s no denying that Zion Williamson is the best player in college basketball. Teammate RJ Barrett might be number two and Tre Jones is another stellar freshman. However, the most important come tournament time is Cam Reddish. He’s also projected to go in the top five in the NBA Draft, but he’s struggled most of the season and is shooting just 36% from the field. With Williamson on the shelf, Reddish’s importance has risen. If Williamson can’t be at 100%, Reddish must step up. If he does, Duke looks unstoppable.